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Explore the Surface of Mercury
December 16, 2009 2:37 PM   Subscribe

NASA's MESSENGER team (previously: 1, 2, 3), with help from the U.S. Geological Survey, released yesterday the first global map of the planet Mercury.

The map stitches together images from MESSENGER's three recent flybys of the planet with those from Mariner 10, which saw about 45% of the planet in the mid-1970s. While a seemingly simple task, "the challenging part has been to make cartographically accurate maps from a series of images with varying resolution (from about 100 to 900 meters per pixel) and lighting conditions (from noontime high Sun to dawn and dusk) taken from a spacecraft traveling at speeds greater than 2 kilometers per second (2,237 miles per hour)."

This map serves an "extremely important use as a planning tool" and signifies that MESSENGER "is no longer a flyby mission but instead will soon become an in-depth, non-stop global observatory of the Solar System’s innermost planet.”

Also available to explore on the USGS's Map-a-Planet website: Venus, the Moon, Mars, Callisto, Europa, Ganymede, Io, Rhea, Dione, Tethys, Iapetus, and Enceladus.
posted by SpringAquifer (15 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Mercury looks suspiciously like a photocopy of someone's buttocks.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:24 PM on December 16, 2009


Mercury looks suspiciously like a photocopy of someone's buttocks.

You're thinking of Uranus.

Wow did you lob that one over the plate, I can't believe I felt the need to swing
posted by Think_Long at 3:27 PM on December 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Does anyone know if these maps has, lately, lead to any new geological insights on planet formation/etc.?

Hmm, trying to get a large image (for, uh, SCIENCE! and desktop wallpapers) under the 'advanced options' I can't get it to generate anything bigger than 1202x609 regardless of what I input. Am I just doing it wrong?
posted by porpoise at 3:39 PM on December 16, 2009


The interface is indeed pretty head-scratchy. It'd be neat if they went for a GoogleMaps kinda thing.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:43 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Porpoise: trying to get a large image

See here. It's a lot, lot bigger than 1202x609, though.
posted by SpringAquifer at 3:45 PM on December 16, 2009


I must be doing this wrong. Mercury looks like it has a belt of severely cratered terrain running north/south, and the rest of the planet seems pretty smooth. That doesn't sound very likely, though - what gives?

Also, it's kind of funny that the United States Geological Survey, which is part of the Department of the Interior, is geologizin' other planets. A rightwing fundynut dilemma here: mapping out future American interplanetary empire GOOD, science BAD.
posted by Quietgal at 3:50 PM on December 16, 2009


Quietgal: I must be doing this wrong. Mercury looks like it has a belt of severely cratered terrain running north/south, and the rest of the planet seems pretty smooth. That doesn't sound very likely, though - what gives?

See this image from this page.

"The darker vertical regions to left and right of center are coverage provided by images near or at the terminator (low Sun). These areas required special processing to retain illuminated features that are otherwise eliminated at incidence angles greater than 90° when the photometric model is applied."

They'll certainly improve the map when we get the opportunity to take more photos. But for now, we have images from only a handful of flybys by only two probes.
posted by SpringAquifer at 4:02 PM on December 16, 2009


It'd be neat if they went for a GoogleMaps kinda thing

I'll hold out for street view.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:39 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Google Mars. Also in elevation
posted by delmoi at 5:17 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, I've been waiting for this since I was 13 in 1997. They even kept the original interface I dreamed of.
posted by cmoj at 5:29 PM on December 16, 2009


Quietgal: Also, it's kind of funny that the United States Geological Survey, which is part of the Department of the Interior, is geologizin' other planets.

The USGS already has the has the web-interface software for dynamically serving landsat data. See here and here. NASA could either reinvent a costly wheel, or they could just pass the georeferenced imagery to USGS and let them plug it in to a preexisting web app.

Though come to think of it, that's exactly the wrong argument to use on rightwingfundynuts.
posted by clarknova at 6:34 PM on December 16, 2009


OooOOooo, thanks SpringAquifer - was trying to pull it from the Map-A-Planet site
posted by porpoise at 6:56 PM on December 16, 2009


Somewhere on this map you can find the "Spider", an unexplained (so far unexplainable) surface formation first seen by MESSENGER. I work at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, in the Space Department, and there are pictures of it up all over the halls there.
posted by newdaddy at 8:32 PM on December 16, 2009



Somewhere on this map you can find the "Spider", an unexplained (so far unexplainable) surface formation first seen by MESSENGER. I work at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, in the Space Department, and there are pictures of it up all over the halls there.


Some chain restraunts just never work out. Sad, I know. I used to love the late-burning-bright dinners at Ziggy Stardust's All You Can Eat Spiders From Mars.


Bar And Grill
posted by The Whelk at 8:58 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mercury looks suspiciously like a photocopy of someone's buttocks.
Complete with stretch marks.
posted by spaghettification at 11:00 PM on December 16, 2009


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